By Staff Writer
The name Master is increasingly becoming synonymous with class, finesse, comfort and all the luxuries you can find in long distance buses. Master Fabricators Ltd has spread its tentacles beyond the borders of Kenya to other markets in the East African region. According to the company’s website, Master builds “the simplest and smallest type of buses to the most modern, comfortable air-conditioned coaches.”
Founders of the company
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Master is a family owned business founded in 1995. The three shareholders are Ajit Singh Virdee and his two sons D.S. Virdee who doubles as the managing director and brother who lives in India. The family patriarch worked in the same body building company for 30 years prior to founding Master.
In an interview with Businessdaily, Virdee shared how he developed interest in the business:
“My father has worked in the body building industry for 40 years. I got interested in the business when I was a teenager and when I graduated from the University of Nairobi with a degree in engineering we decided to start our own business.”
Ajit Singh Virdee health had become an issue due to old age and by starting their own company they “could harness his vast knowledge and skills whilst ensuring he took it easy.” On the other hand, his son was young and in his own words “energetic and could run the business day to day while he (his father) provided strategic direction,” Virjee told BD.
Staying on top of competition
Master evolved from a company that competed on price when it first entered the market to a company that was keen on creating a brand grounded on innovation and design, safety and durability. This resulted in luxurious buses that come with safety features like anti roll cage which ensures the body remains intact in case the bus is involved in an accident.
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The company faces competition from low priced competitors. According to Virdee, they countered this by creating brands using Swahili names. He went on to state that they analyse a client business and sell “sell them a concept based on their needs — whether it involves urban transport, long distance vehicles, or luxury and tourist buses.”
Competition from China has also eaten into their market. Their prices are very competitive “although the products are not at par in terms of quality,” the MD told BD.
Another challenge faced by Master is the imitation of its designs by competitors.
“In the last six months we’ve had people hiring our workers at night to replicate our bus designs and we’ve also had people stealing moulds of our designs. But we’re not worried because I have a technical background and we’re constantly bringing in new concepts and designs to stay one step ahead,” Mr Virdee shared.
The buses are categorized as Master Jahazi which is a standard town bus; Master Safari for institutions while Master Malaika and Mfalme are luxurious coaches targeting the high end market. Other are Master Utalii, Master Mteja, Master Ndege and Master Starehe.
Master has also introduced the Sheriffa body which means decent in Arabic. Ena Coaches use this body.
Master has clients from Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Malawi, Congo, Mozambique, and Zambia.
The cost of building a small bus is between Sh700,000 to Sh1.8 million, while the high end range costs between Sh1.8 million to Sh4.5 million. These figures may have changed as they were published in 2010.
Number of employees
The company has over 200 employees.